Complaint filed with SOS about campaign reports

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A complaint about unfiled campaign finance reports for one of the candidates in the race for 13th Judicial District Court Judge is under review by the New Mexico Secretary of State's office.

On July 9, Yvonne Sanchez, treasurer for the campaign to elect LaDonna Giron, sent a letter to Secretary of State Dianna Duran, informing the state that Judge James Lawrence Sanchez had not filed his reports under the state's Campaign Reporting Act by the July 5 deadline.

The reporting period was from May 30 through June 30.

Judge Sanchez was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to the bench on May 29 after Judge John Pope stepped down earlier this year. After Pope's resignation, Giron gathered enough petition signatures to be placed on the ballot for the Democratic primary.

She was the only candidate, Republican or Democrat, on the June ballot, and will face Sanchez, a Republican, in the November general election.

When asked last week why the reports had not been filed on time, both Judge Sanchez and his campaign treasurer, Stephanie Williams, expressed surprise.

"I filed them on July 4 and got a confirmation they had been accepted and it was successful," Williams said.

She produced a screen shot of the New Mexico Campaign Finance Information System website, dated July 4.

The image shows a successful upload history for new loans, expenditures and contributions dated July 4, shortly before 10 a.m.

However the information was not available on the SOS campaign finance website.

According to Yvonne Sanchez, if the information was filed it, should have shown up online almost immediately.

"It's all done online. I had to go to a training session and get set up a user name and password," Yvonne Sanchez said. "It's almost instantaneous — once you publish, it's visible to the public."

She said the reason the SOS was alerted was to ensure that everything was being done in a transparent manner.

"We didn't want to be tattle tales, but as far as this position is concerned, you are held to little bit of a higher standard," Yvonne Sanchez said. "All we want from this is to make sure reports are filed in a timely manner."

Since judicial candidates are not allowed to know who donates money to their campaign or to that of an opponent, Judge Sanchez said he was a little concerned that "someone from (Giron's) camp was snooping around into who was making campaign contributions.

If I'm doing something wrong, it needs to be reported," Judge Sanchez said. "If she's doing something wrong, it needs be reported."

According to state statute, if a candidate files a false, intentionally incomplete or late report of expenditures and contributions the reporting individual or political committee shall be liable and pay to the secretary of state $500 for the first working day and $50 for each subsequent working day up to a maximum of $5,000.

The reports for Judge Sanchez's expenditures and contributions appeared on the SOS website at 3:20 p.m., Wednesday, July 11.

State Bureau of Elections Director Bobbi Shearer said it was her understanding that all the information was entered on July 4, but Williams neglected to click the "authorize and publish" button on the website, thus completing the filing.

"This is not an uncommon problem," Shearer said. "Depending on the browser, and some Apple users have this issue."

On the matter of the fine, Shearer said Duran personally reviews all campaign finance complaints herself and will make a determination.

"The statute says if there is 'good cause' she can waive all or part of the fine," she said. "Right now, it is under review. When there is a complaint, we have them send us in writing an explanation of why the reports were late or not filed."


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.